Gavin Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor, holds a commanding lead over his Republican rival, businessman John Cox, in the race to be California’s next governor, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
In a new poll released Wednesday, 55 percent of likely voters favored Newsom, compared to 31 percent who would pick Cox. More than three months before the November election, only 9 percent of respondents were still undecided.
Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC, said Democrats quickly coalesced around Newsom after an open, and sometimes bitter, primary in which millions of them voted for other major candidates, like former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang. About 86 percent of Democratic likely voters in the poll supported Newsom, significantly narrowing the path forward for Cox’s underdog campaign.
“The electorate is so polarized,” Baldassare said. “Cox has equally solid support among Republicans, but there are many more Democrats than Republicans in the electorate these days.”
Californians registered with no party preference surpassed Republicans in May to become the second-largest voting bloc in the state, behind Democrats. Independent likely voters in the PPIC poll favored Newsom over Cox, 44 percent to 31 percent.
The results are similar to PPIC’s July poll from the 2014 gubernatorial election, when Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown led Republican Neel Kashkari among likely voters, 52 percent to 33 percent, with 11 percent of respondents undecided. Brown ultimately won that election with 60 percent of the vote.
Despite holding a 24-point lead, Newsom’s team played down the poll.
“Our campaign isn’t taking anything for granted, and we will continue to work hard to get our message out between now and Election Day,” spokesman Nathan Click said in a statement.
Likely voters in the Inland Empire supported Cox over Newsom, and the candidates were nearly tied among Central Valley respondents, but Newsom racked up large margins in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Orange and San Diego counties.
Cox has focused his message to voters on repealing the recent gas tax increase and other affordability issues, making an appeal to “forgotten Californians” who feel left behind the government’s dominant Democrats.
“July polls are a name ID beauty contest,” spokesman Matt Shupe said in a statement. “The fact is John Cox wasn’t supposed to make it into this run-off for Governor. He isn’t part of the political class and wasn’t supposed to beat a former LA Mayor, or the State Treasurer. But we have all seen Gavin Newsom attacking John Cox publicly and that’s because his polls are showing what ours show, that the race is actually much closer, and that Newsom has high negatives.”